With change going on all around, we need to think differently about delivering education. What works today may not work as well tomorrow. You don’t have to overhaul your association’s approach to professional development, but you can start experimenting with learning campaigns, a new way of engaging and delivering education to your professional community.
The learning campaign’s roots in marketing
The corporate training world uses learning campaigns to raise awareness, reinforce messages, and create behavioral change. A learning campaign uses a marketing campaign approach to learning, starting with the “hook” stage.
Hook. A marketing campaign uses a hook to grab the audience’s attention. It raises awareness of a product through a series of messages making the same point and delivered via different channels.
Learning campaigns take the same approach. The repetition of small chunks of information over time (spaced learning) is necessary to make information stick, help develop a learning habit, and change behavior.
Conveying a sense of urgency encourages an audience to pay attention to a campaign. Campaigns also are more likely to succeed if they trigger an audience’s aspirations or fear of consequences. In a learning campaign, you can increase your audience’s awareness of the need for self-improvement in a specific area by explaining how a change in behavior will benefit them.
Nurture. In this stage of the learning campaign, a member or learner decides to take you up on your offer and try out the campaign. Every day, they receive an email notification with a link to their LMS dashboard where they find a small chunk of microlearning content waiting for them: a short video, blog post, or discussion prompt.
The more ways you engage your audience with the campaign content, the more opportunities they’ll have to digest, apply, and recall the content. Learning becomes sticky.
Convert. Next, the member converts from a curious LMS visitor to a committed learning campaign participant. Your job is to motivate them—through education—to change behavior. Encourage them to collaborate with others in the community and share ideas and information.
Deliver results: The goal of a learning campaign is to spark a community conversation, get people thinking and discussing the campaign objectives, and continue to reinforce the learning. If you meet or exceed the learner’s expectations, they will continue to return to your LMS and online learning programs, and hopefully become fans, advocates, and influencers who refer others to your programs.
When to use a learning campaign
Corporate training departments use learning campaigns to raise awareness of compliance or regulatory issues, reinforce messages, and create behavior change. Corporate learning campaigns focus on topics such as:
• Health, safety and security regulations
• Changes in policy or legislation that affect the workforce
• Product launches
• Environmental and sustainability drives
• New communications platforms or systems
Citibank developed a learning campaign to build “organizational readiness for what’s next and the need to continue to adapt to serve our clients successfully.” Some of their campaign messages focused on the need for failure, curiosity, and agility.
Shifting to the association context, think about the type of information that would best be delivered in a learning campaign.
• Are new habits or behaviors required in some aspect of your profession or industry?
• Do specific messages or new practices need to be reinforced?
• Is there something people know they need to do but are struggling to do?
Learning campaigns work best in a time of change when an entire professional community needs to adapt to new regulations, standards, technologies, or techniques.
Planning a learning campaign
As with a marketing campaign, the first thing you need is market research to guide decisions about ideas for a learning campaign. Consult the same needs analysis you use to develop new online learning programs. What are people struggling to do in their work lives? What habits do they need to develop?
To get buy-in from association leadership, make sure your idea for a learning campaign aligns with and supports strategic objectives.
A crucial point to consider: employees don’t pay for corporate training or for corporate learning campaigns. If you are tempted to charge for campaign participation, the cost may be a barrier to participation. You need to decide whether it’s more important to involve as many people as possible in the learning campaign. Is supporting your association’s mission more important than the revenue?
Corporate revenue partners (sponsors) could subsidize a mission-focused learning campaign. If you develop the campaign in collaboration with an advisory group of employers and the learning campaign aligns with their training needs, corporate members could also help subsidize the campaign.
Corporate learning campaigns can last from a month to a year. It will be easier for your association to maintain momentum by experimenting with a shorter campaign, perhaps four to six weeks.
Launching a learning campaign
Get people talking about the campaign by promoting it with email marketing, home page announcements, digital and social advertisements, blog posts, and social updates. If you have employer cooperation, ask them to spread the word through internal announcements and posters.
During the campaign, deliver small chunks of content that learners engage with over time. Ideally, every day a new piece of microlearning content comes their way.
• Something to read, watch, or listen to
• Online discussion prompts
• Self-assessments or quizzes
• Reflective exercises
• Opportunities to have a say: answer questions or respond to a poll
Encourage knowledge sharing. Find out how they’re applying their learning. Ask for tips and stories. Share poll results.
By conditioning them to expect the content every day, you are helping them create a learning habit—a habit that will work in your association’s favor later. Automatic email notifications from your LMS let them know when a new lesson or exercise is ready.
Community events, both online and in-person, help maintain momentum and spread awareness of the learning campaign.
• Town halls (virtual and in-person)
• Reports from participating companies
• Chapter events
• Social sharing
• Blog posts reporting on campaign experiences
As the learning campaign comes to an end, survey participants and employers to evaluate outcomes. Analyze results and document lessons learned for next time.
Benefits of learning campaigns for associations
The learner walks away from a learning campaign with new knowledge, skills, and/or behavior. But what about your association?
You can easily revise and repurpose the micro-modules of a learning campaign for other learning programs. Learning campaigns are more flexible than traditional courses. They’re easier to roll out and update. Even in the midst of a learning campaign, you can respond to industry developments by inserting new content or updating existing content.
Because campaign content is hosted on your LMS, some learners are bound to explore and look at the other educational programs you offer.
With an industry-wide marketing campaign and employer support, a learning campaign can introduce your association (and your programs) to new audiences.
Best of all, a learning campaign helps you build a learning culture and a sense of community in your industry. If you can get thousands of people in your industry engaged with the same learning content, imagine the conversations and new insights that could arise.
Your association is the one that can host this movement. You can help facilitate these conversations. A learning campaign can change behavior and help your profession or industry move forward.